This Cornbread Dressing Recipe Is (Almost) As Good As Mama's

If you happen to be in the kitchen while a good cook is at work, be sure and take good notes.

Southern Cornbread Dressing
Photo: Lee Harrelson

My mother made the best cornbread dressing ever. I would put a pan of her moist and savory dressing up against dressing cooked by the finest chef in the country, and I know without a doubt Mama's recipe would come out the winner. Mama planned her holiday cooking with the precision of a military exercise; she made a detailed list of dishes to prepare, bought the necessary groceries weeks in advance, calculated just how long it would take to thaw the turkey, and put the frozen bird in the refrigerator not a day too soon or too late. Most importantly, she cooked the cornbread for the dressing a day or two in advance so it would have time to dry out, an important element in making quality cornbread dressing. Here's a Southern cornbread dressing for your holiday feast that will remind you of your mama's.

Southern Dressing

In the South, you'll find dressing on the table. Stuffing goes in the bird, and Southerners are partial to a golden baked pan of dressing. Cornbread dressing is a classic. Made with homemade cornbread, a staple in Southern homes, celery and onion are mixed with spices, broth, and eggs, which act as a binder. The mixture is baked till the edges form a crisp, golden crust.

The Recipe

My mama made the best from-scratch dressing. The one thing Mama didn't do? She didn't write down her recipe. Like so many talented home cooks, my mother cooked from memory, smell, taste, and touch, and although I spent many holidays by her side in the kitchen, talking through the recipe as she prepared it, I never wrote it down. Recently, I ran across this Southern Living recipe for Southern Cornbread Dressing, and I think it comes as close to Mama's as anything I have been able to bake up.

Southern Tradition

Food memories can transport you back to another place and time. When I smelled this particular cornbread dressing baking in the Southern Living Test Kitchens, I was immediately transported back to Mama's kitchen. This version uses the same ingredients as Mama did—eggs, onion, celery, herbs, and even bread crumbs (she usually used a leftover biscuit or two). The method and the components for this recipe are just like Mama's, so the texture and taste are the same…well, almost.

Fit for a Crowd

This recipe resembles Mama's not just in taste and texture but also in quantity—it makes a LOT. We have a large family that grew even bigger over the years with the addition of in-laws, grandchildren, and great-grands. Mama finally resorted to baking a double recipe of cornbread dressing in a large, blue-speckled roasting pan. You don't have to use a roasting pan for this recipe, but you will need a 13- x 9-inch baking dish and an 8-inch square baking dish. Bake both if you are having a crowd for the holidays. Otherwise, just bake one and freeze one for another meal.

Everyone has a memory of a favorite dish that reminds them of home. If you happen to be in the kitchen this season while that recipe is being prepared, grab a pen and paper and jot down the recipe.

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